This is how manipulation was used by an unaggressive thief on me – a true travel story based on a personal experience.
On May 15th, 2014 I was hitchhiking from Hungary to Romania, and from Bors – the Romanian border village with Hungary – I found someone who took me to Cluj, arriving in the city around 10 o’clock in the night.
I didn’t have a place to sleep nor a tent with me so I thought to walk around the city to find a good spot for camping and sleeping in my sleeping bag under the stars. I walked to the very city center, where the medieval cathedral is. There, I saw some students sitting on the grass telling jokes and having a good time. The place seemed good enough to sit for half an hour to eat the food I had with me.
After about 15 minutes I was there on the grass near the cathedral and eating, a 30+ years old guy approached me with “Do You have a phone so that I can make a phone call?”. To me, this guy seemed like a homeless, though he didn’t smell bad nor was dirty. My instinct told me not to trust him.
I had my mobile device in my pocket but since I had no sim-card in it and it was not possible to make phone calls I answered “No… but if You are hungry, please sit here in front of me on my mattress – I can offer You some food”. He sat down but refused to eat anything because he said he drank before and that after he drinks he cannot eat.
We started talking. He asked me if I intended to sleep there, and then he started telling me about himself: that he is on the streets (as I thought) since he was a kid, that he was in jail for burglary and that he believes in God because after his experience in jail God helped him not to do bad things anymore; he underlined that now he prefers to just beg for money and food than stealing. He added that he didn’t come to me to steal anything from me; then he asked “Do You always give people your food without knowing them? I could be your enemy”, to which I answered “I have been on the road as well for some time, like You, but in a different way, and sharing the food is what I learned as also to me it happened to be very hungry and have nothing to eat and I know what is it like”. Then we kept talking for a few more minutes and when he was about to leave he wanted me to confirm “You really don’t have a phone? I believe You said so because You thought that I would run away with it”. To this, while I was holding my mobile device in my hand, I answered “Look, I have something which theoretically is a phone, but has no sim-card inside so it cannot be really considered a phone”, and then he said “Can I see it?” and I handed him my mobile device. He had a look at it and then he asked me if I could give him my device because he would really need a phone and that he never had a phone in his life.
When he asked me this I remembered what a friend of mine told me once: that in the culture of its country when someone likes, needs or wants someone’s else object then this person can have it. Then, after a few seconds of pondering, I answered: “Yes, You can have my smartphone. I will give it to You”.
He didn’t expect this answer nor the fact that I was about to give him a 300 EUR mobile device for free, and I could read on his face how surprised he was. Then I added “Just wait for few minutes because I want to delete some things from it”, to which he replied “Can You leave at least the music because there are many years I didn’t have the chance to listen to some music”, and I said “No, I will not leave anything inside – I will give You the device as it was from the factory”. Then I restored the factory settings deleting everything and I handed him my smartphone and its battery charger. He jumped on me giving me a kiss on my cheek and a hug. In the end, he added, “I never met someone like You”.
When he asked me to give him my device I felt like the Universe wanted to test me, but it wasn’t like this. This was a new lesson I had to learn, and I realized this just a bit too late: he manipulated me, and for the next thirty days I felt like robbed. Something similar could happen also to You, in any part of the world, so it is good to pay lots of attention and distinguish very carefully between who really needs your help and who just intends to manipulate You.
Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre; first in 2014, last updated in 2017. © 2014-2017